Paul Krugman Demolishes the 'Zombie' Ideas That Have Eaten Republican Brains
Paul Krugman has a little fun in his Friday column, using an extended zombie metaphor to express a rather serious point. The question the columnist seeks an answer to: why is it that Republicans and the right refuse to recognize the reality, evidence and facts that discredit their ideas? Must be something supernatural. Or more likely Koch and Adelson money. But more on that in a sec.
"Last week, a zombie went to New Hampshire and staked its claim to the Republican presidential nomination," Krugman begins. "Well, O.K., it was actually Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. But it’s pretty much the same thing."
Christie gave a speech in New Hampshire once again positioning himself as a roll-up-your-shirtsleeves, tough fiscal conservative. But his ideas are largley, well, zombies. Things that are dead, but somehow refuse to acknowledge they are dead. Christie thought he was being so smart when he proposed that the minimum age for Social Secutiry and Medicare be raised to 69. Here is Krugman's explanation of the problem with that oh-so-brave idea.
This whole line of argument should have died in 2007, when the Social Security Administration issued a report showing that almost all the rise in life expectancy has taken place among the affluent. The bottom half of workers, who are precisely the Americans who rely on Social Security most, have seen their life expectancy at age 65 rise only a bit more than a year since the 1970s. Furthermore, while lawyers and politicians may consider working into their late 60s no hardship, things look somewhat different to ordinary workers, many of whom still have to perform manual labor.
And while raising the retirement age would impose a great deal of hardship, it would save remarkably little money. In fact, a 2013 report from the Congressional Budget Office found that raising the Medicare age would save almost no money at all.
But did this evidence of it being a bad idea prevent other zombies, like Jeb Bush, from offering up the same thing? No it did not. "The zombie ideas have eaten his brain," Krugman explains.
There are other zombie ideas running around, like one of Krugman's favorites, the hysteria over the Affordable Care Act and how it was supposed to destroy the economy.
But as with movie zombies, no amount of arrows, bullets, or other deathblows makes the slightest dent in the discourse on the right. Voodoo economics is even back, says Krugman. That is the whole "supply-side" trickle down nonsense that tax cuts on the rich lifts all boats.
In the real world, this doctrine has an unblemished record of failure. Despite confident right-wing predictions of doom, neither the Clinton tax increase of 1993 nor the Obama tax increase of 2013 killed the economy (far from it), while the “Bush boom” that followed the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 was unimpressive even before it ended in financial crisis. Kansas, whose governor promised a “real live experiment” that would prove supply-side doctrine right, has failed even to match the growth of neighboring states.
In the world of Republican politics, however, voodoo’s grip has never been stronger. Would-be presidential candidates must audition in front of prominent supply-siders to prove their fealty to failed doctrine. Tax proposals like Marco Rubio’s would create a giant hole in the budget, then claim that this hole would be filled by a miraculous economic upsurge. Supply-side economics, it’s now clear, is the ultimate zombie: no amount of evidence or logic can kill it.
Time for an explanation for this apparent zombie apocalypse in the Republican Party. Reason number one, Krugman suggests, is that Republicans represent states where the threat from the right is more real than any threat from the left, so it costs them nothing to move to the right. And then there's the fact that Koch money and Sheldon Adelson money only go to those who perpetuate outright untruths about taxes, Obamacare, the environment, and on and on.